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31 May 2017

Compiled by Fellows of the UKTPO

Brexit will leave many areas of UK policy open to change. International trade policy is among the most important of these for UK prosperity and also among the most immediate because the status quo cannot simply be extended. This is the sixth in a series of blogs reporting what the major political parties say about trade policy in their 2017 manifestos, as they become available.

The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has set out a series of issues that it believes should be considered in any election manifesto that might form the basis of the UK’s future trade policy. The table below checks whether or not the SNP Manifesto mentions these important elements explicitly or implicitly. Following that, we offer a brief commentary on the treatment of trade policy in the manifesto.

Checklist table for SNP manifesto


A majority of people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU, and the SNP Manifesto reiterates the SNP’s opposition to a ‘hard Brexit’. The SNP claims that ‘there is no rational case for taking Scotland, or the UK, out of the Single Market’, estimating that leaving the Single Market could result in 80,000 jobs being lost in Scotland.

The SNP will work to protect Scotland’s place in the Single Market and would include preserving it in the UK’s negotiating remit. It also wants Scotland to have a place at the negotiating table and a choice on the final terms of the Brexit deal. The SNP argues that

‘whatever future the people of Scotland choose’ (in the second Scottish independence referendum), ‘it is in everyone’s interests that Scotland and the rest of the UK maintain a smooth trading relationship’,

as well as that an independent Scotland should be within the EU.

The SNP sees consumers being put at a disadvantage due to Brexit and explicitly mentions several aspects of trade in services. For example, it commits to ensuring that Scotland

  • does not lose on the EU commitment to abolish mobile roaming charges,
  • continues to participate in the EU programmes such as the Erasmus+ and the EU-U.S. Open Skies Agreement, and
  • preserves current cross-border health insurance arrangements, including the European Health Insurance Card.

Because the SNP wants Scotland to retain access to the Single Market, the Manifesto does not explicitly mention the World Trade Organisation. It does, however, call for greater transparency in any proposed trade deals following Brexit and for the Scottish and UK Parliaments to have a say on them. The SNP places special emphasis on ethical trade with the rest of the world – one that prioritises development and poverty reduction in developing countries – and specifically calls for the UK government ‘to renegotiate a new, fair tax treaty with Malawi’. ‘The SNP will urge the UK government to develop a trade and development policy that outlines how the UK will support development as part of its trade with developing countries’.

On standards, the SNP states that ‘Brexit threatens …. vital social and environmental rights’  and vows to protect them, implicitly in future trade agreements.

While the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) takes no institutional position and will continue to remain firmly non-partisan during the UK General Election, it believes it is useful to share some of the questions that its fellows think will be important when reviewing what the party manifestos say about trade.

Examining manifestos is particularly important, because the winning party’s manifesto may be cited under the Salisbury Convention, which precludes the House of Lords from opposing bills passed by the Commons to honour election manifesto pledges.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions of the University of Sussex.

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The UK Trade Policy Observatory believes in the free flow of information and encourages readers to cite our materials, providing due acknowledgement. For online use, this should be a link to he original resource on the our website. We do not however, publish under a Creative Commons license. This means you CANNOT republish our articles online or in print for free.

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